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The Republican state schools chief elected in 2016 alongside Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is joining the statewide listening tour of state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, as he eyes a potential 2020 run for governor.

Melton announced Monday that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick will speak about education policy at five of the 16 community conversation town hall events he's scheduled through August.

"It is an honor to share this platform with Dr. McCormick, who has been an advocate for Indiana's students and families," Melton said.

McCormick in recent months has been very critical of the education policies enacted by Holcomb and the Republican-controlled General Assembly, particularly concerning public school funding, inadequate student mental health programs and excessive teacher training mandates.

She said she's optimistic that Melton, a former member of the State Board of Education, will act to elevate education issues and work collaboratively.

"Indiana needs more statewide leaders who value the voices of practitioners and community stakeholders, as demonstrated by Sen. Eddie Melton," McCormick said.

"This next election will direct the future of our state for generations to come. Decisions regarding the education of our children must be at the very heart of that future."

McCormick cannot run for a second term next year because a new state law makes the state superintendent of public instruction, a position elected by Hoosier voters since 1852, into a governor-appointed post starting in 2021.

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Melton said that makes it even more important that Hoosiers elect a governor who is prepared to lead on state and local education issues.

"Indiana is at a crossroads," he said. "We can either make the investments needed to innovate and shape our future, or continue to remain in neutral as we refuse to transition into the new global economy and continue to politicize our education system."

Kyle Hupfer, Indiana Republican Party chairman, questioned why McCormick, who was elected to her position with the financial and electoral support of thousands of Hoosier Republicans, would aid a potential Democratic challenger to the state's GOP governor.

"It begs the question whether Jennifer McCormick is still a Republican," Hupfer said.

"Today's announcement seems to confirm the rumors of the last few weeks: that Jennifer McCormick is auditioning for a new job — including as the lieutenant governor nominee on the Democrat ticket in 2020."

The only Northwest Indiana event featuring both Melton and McCormick is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. July 30 at a to-be-announced location in Hammond.

Melton also is hosting solo community conversations in the Region from 6-8 p.m. July 8 at Greater First Baptist Church, 4862 Olcott Ave., East Chicago; 6-8 p.m. July 9 at Roots Organic Juice Cafe, 108 E. Lincolnway, Valparaiso; and 6-8 p.m. July 23 in Michigan City.

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